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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

True story: I became homeless after the credit crunch

This opinion piece is over 7 years old
 

Former heating engineer Brian became homeless in 2010 after experiencing a nervous breakdown.

If someone had told me six years ago that I'd end up homeless then go on to work for The Salvation Army I would have laughed at them.

I used to think people who were homeless were at it and thought they just needed to get a job. But my experiences over the past six years have made me realise that homeless people are genuinely in need of help.

When I was sleeping rough I tried to kill myself but a woman found me and called an ambulance. I ended up in hospital with all these things attached to me, thinking this doesn't look like heaven.

From there I stayed in a B&B for six months, which was scarier than living on the streets. I have never had an addiction problem but most people in the B&B I stayed did, so it was intimidating at times.

I also received no benefits for six months. My first Christmas after being in hospital I remember sitting in the B&B with a packet of chocolate biscuits and a bottle of juice. I literally had no money.

When I was sleeping rough I tried to kill myself ... I ended up in hospital with all these things attached to me, thinking this doesn't look like heaven

Eventually I got back to a better place thanks to the support I received from the council and started volunteering for the Cyrenians. From there I got an interview for a job of assistant support worker at the Pleasance Lifehouse. It was my first job interview and I got it.

This week I celebrate a year working for The Salvation Army, and I have loved every minute. I was promoted to support worker in October.

I feel I'm able to connect with the residents because they know I've been, seen and done it. I was literally rock bottom with no money. I'll tell my story to the guys who come in so they can say: 'If he can do it so can we.'

My experience gives me the empathy and even though I didn't have an addiction, I have learned about that side of things.

I'm proof that people who have been homeless can get their lives back on track. It certainly doesn’t help when people just ignore the problem and hope it goes away. What I'd like the public to understand is homeless is what I was not who I was.

Brian (not his real name) had his own heating engineering firm in Falkirk but when the credit crunch hit he struggled to keep the business afloat. In 2010 he suffered a nervous breakdown and ended up walking out of his flat and into a life of sleeping rough on the streets of Edinburgh. After attempting to take his own life, he managed to get back on his feet and is now employed by The Salvation Army, supporting homeless men and women in Edinburgh.

 

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